Rural Wyoming Museums: Preserving Heritage & History

Morgan Marks, Karina Ike, and Alexandra Deselms
Morgan Marks, Karina Ike, and Alexandra Deselms

Our mission is to cultivate a rich educational space for the diverse international community served by and rooted in the American western legacy of Cheyenne Frontier Days. – Morgan Marks

Just because you aren’t the president of the United States or not someone important in the state doesn’t mean your history isn’t important. It built this state, it built this community, and it’s a legacy for the rest of the people who come after us. – Karina Ike

It’s really helpful for us in our research and in figuring out different histories. And then it’s also an important thing to be able to hear the stories and directly from the source, from their voice – Alexandra Deselms

In this episode of Winds of Change, you’ll hear from museum professionals Morgan Marks, Korina Ike, and Alexandra Deselms, offering valuable insights into the importance of community engagement in museums.

Morgan Marks, director of the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum, shares the museum’s mission and programs, emphasizing its significant ties to the history of Cheyenne. Meanwhile, Korina Ike, director of the Hulett Museum and Art Gallery and Alexandra Deselms from the Meeteetse Museums District discuss their recent projects, and the significance of oral history projects in preserving the past. Their diverse perspectives and experiences underscore the crucial role of museums in reflecting and preserving the local community’s history and culture.

Through their engaging conversation, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the efforts made by museum professionals to create inclusive and interactive experiences for visitors, and the impact of collaborative initiatives in enhancing the museum scene in small towns like those in Wyoming.

In this episode, you will be able to:

  •  Discover the secrets to preserving history and cultural heritage in museums, unlocking the power of the past.
  •  Uncover the importance of community engagement in museums and learn how to create meaningful connections with your local community.
  •  Explore the collaborative nature of museums in Wyoming, uncovering the magic of teamwork in preserving and sharing stories.
  •  Explore the impactful world of grants on museum projects, discovering how funding can transform and elevate museum experiences.

The resources mentioned in this episode are:

  • Visit Thinkwy.org for more information about Wyoming humanities and their programs.
  •  Check out the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum’s website at oldwestmuseum.org to learn more about their exhibits and programs.
  •  Discover the Hulett Museums: https://hulettmuseum.com to learn more and enjoy their exhibits and programs.
  •  Consider visiting the Meeteetse Museums in Meeteetse, Wyoming to experience their collections and exhibits in person.
  •  Subscribe to the Winds of Change podcast to never miss an episode and hear more stories from Wyoming.

 

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00:00:00
Welcome to winds of change brought to you by Wyoming Humanities. I am your host, Emy DiGrappa. Winds of change is a unique focus on the people, places, and history of Wyoming. If you like this show, please share. With your friends, family, and all the people who love Wyoming.

00:00:19
To learn more about us, go to thinkwy.org. That is.

00:00:31
Now let’s celebrate the museums of Wyoming and the people who work to preserve our history and culture. Our Wyoming museums are vital to our rural communities. In the case of Wyoming, a state with many rural communities, museums play a particularly important role in preserving and sharing the history of these areas. They help to document the stories of ranchers, farmers, miners, Native American tribes, and other groups that have shaped the state’s history’s rich cultural heritage. By preserving and celebrating this history, rural museums contribute to the vitality and resilience of Wyoming’s rural communities.

00:01:21
Listen to the stories of the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum with their director, Morgan Marks, followed by Korina Ike, director of the Hulett Museum, followed by Alexandra Deselms at the Meeteetse museums. Each story shares a different perspective on their museum collections and community. Thank you for listening. Today we are talking to Morgan Marks. She works for the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum.

00:01:54
Welcome, Morgan. Thanks for having me. So, Morgan, tell me a little bit about yourself. How long have you worked at the museum? I have worked at the Scheinford Tear Day’s old West Museum for seven or eight years.

00:02:05
When I finished my grad program, I went there as an intern and worked in every department and worked my way up to the executive director position. Oh my goodness. Well, congratulations on that. Thank you. It’s a great place with a lot of good history.

00:02:23
What was your degree in? I got my master’s degree in international arts management and it was a program that was in three different countries and three different universities, all working to give the students an international perspective. I did get my undergraduate degree in business economics and Spanish at the University of Wyoming. Excellent. So where did you grow up?

00:02:45
I grew up in Cheyenne. My family moved to Wyoming the year I turned eleven, so most of my life has been in Wyoming. So tell me about the Cheyenne Frontier Days old West Museum. What is your mission and what kinds of programs do you do? We are a very cool place.

00:03:02
Our mission is to cultivate a rich educational space for the diverse international community served by and rooted in the American western legacy of Cheyenne frontier days. Which means that we are here to tell the story of Cheyenne frontier days, which has shaped the perception of the west, both contemporary and the past. What is the west? What does it mean to be a human living in the west both today and 125 plus years ago? What’s especially cool about our story is Cheyenne.

00:03:35
The town and Cheyenne frontier days grew up together. There’s only about a 30 year difference between the two, and it’s the only place in town where you get the full story of Cheyenne and how you actually become a person living in the west. For our programs, we have a lot of educational programs. In addition to our permanent exhibits about Cheyenne frontier days, we put several art shows up a year. We do three art shows, and so we have programming in conjunction with those art shows to help local, regional, and worldwide artists to develop with our western spirit art seminar that’s coming up in a couple of months.

00:04:13
We host the Cheyenne Frontier Days western art show and sale every July, which kicks off Cheyenne frontier days. And it is our biggest fundraiser of the year. Last year was our very first new Frontiers art show where we’re starting very contemporary western art and making that show approachable. So art is for everybody, and we want some of the prices to reflect that art is for everybody. So these shows have all have different pricing levels so that it’s accessible for education.

00:04:43
We do a couple of different kids camps every year. An art camp, and we call it the cow kid camp. And it alternates between pioneers life and cowboy lifestyle. So similar but different. And it gives something new for the kids every year.

00:04:58
And we have a quarterly we call our art encore. It’s our version of a wine and paint night where we have different practicing artists come and teach a different style of art. I think our upcoming one is going to be felting. So we’re very broad in our definition of what art is because it’s accessible for everybody and it ties in so beautifully with our exhibits. One of our biggest exhibits is carriages.

00:05:23
And carriages in and of themselves are these beautiful pieces of art that have very utilitarian history. What year was Cheyenne frontier Days formed? When did it begin? Cheyenne Frontier Days began in 1897. Oh, goodness.

00:05:38
Okay. And then when did the museum open? The museum opened in July of 1978. It was started by a group of volunteers who wanted a place to protect the carriage collection that is shared between the museum and shine frontier days and to tell our western history. And over the past 40 some years, we have focused to telling the story of the american west through the lens of shine frontier days.

00:06:07
So, about how many people visit your museum every year? Around 50,000 visit every year. Wow, that is great. What was the last program that you received a grant for from the Wyoming humanities. The latest grant that we received was so we can conserve a dress and a regalia of Princess blue waters, who was a Cheyenne frontier days ambassador.

00:06:32
And is this incredible woman. And her regalia was in such a delicate state that we couldn’t display it. This grant allowed us to hire a professional conservator who spent a week at our building conserving the dress so that we can move it without the beadwork falling off of it. And she also, I think the regalia has seven or nine pieces, so she worked on all of these pieces. And the final part of this grant was to allow us to get a case so we can actually present this.

00:07:03
The case has finally shipped, so it will be here in a couple of weeks. For the first time in 20 years, we’ll be able to display this regalia. And tell me the name. It’s for Princess Bluewater. Princess Bluewater.

00:07:18
Okay. Tell me a little bit about her. So Princess Bluewater was one of the ambassadors of Cheyenne frontier days. Native Americans have been involved with Cheyenne frontier days since the second year, since 1898. And there’s been, in the past 50 some years, there’s been three major groups that we’ve worked with.

00:07:42
And Princess Bluewater was the first of helped spread. She helped educate and explain the relationship between Cheyenne frontier days and Native Americans. And she was one of the most beloved ambassadors for Cheyenne frontier days in the community. What was her native american background? Do you know?

00:08:04
I don’t know, actually, I wish I did. But she is this ubiquitous presence. Everybody who’s associated with shine frontier days and the indian village know of her, and she has impacted how they present the indian village. And her influence is something that still continues today with the regular dancing and the education about what the dances represent. Well, I love that Wyoming humanities is all about preserving history.

00:08:33
And it’s interesting because our grants range from very new contemporary documentaries to museums like yours, where you’re preserving a piece of history. What’s your website? Our website is oldwestmuseum.org. So how does Cheyenne frontier days, how do you work together with the actual event of Cheyenne frontier days? Do you have a communication of the kinds of things that they would like to see you preserve or some of the historical things that are happening every year?

00:09:10
I think they have a rodeo queen. Do you have any record of all the rodeo queens? We have a full record of the rodeo queens. And if you’re able to visit the museum in our carriage hall, we have a banner hanging from the ceiling for every single one we work very closely with shine for interior days, but we are a separate entity. They are one of our biggest sponsors and supporters, but they allow us to collect and display anything that we wish to.

00:09:37
So we’re allowed to go down any storytelling avenue we want to. Our permanent exhibit is a rough history. We rotate exhibits through and rotate artifacts through, but the general story as you go through is, why is it here? How is Cheyenne, the place that made this incredible event happen, and what does it look like today? And so we take you through, I think it’s 127 years this year.

00:10:03
So we take you through 127 years of history. And then one of my favorite galleries is actually our hall of Fame, where we recognize volunteers, contractors, entertainers, animal athletes, anything you can think of. We have a hall of fame for them, and every year, we bring in a few new inductees to celebrate the heart of Cheyenne frontier days. Oh, I love that. Well, I think everyone should go visit there, and I am really curious now that you brought that up.

00:10:37
So why is Cheyenne frontier days in Cheyenne? If you were to talk to my amazing curator, he has a couple different theories, but this one’s my favorite. They were looking for ways of bringing tourists up to Wyoming on the Denver Post train. He wanted a way to get people here, and this gentleman named Frederick Andrew was waiting for his train to arrive, and he saw some cowboys trying to wrestle horse into a train car. He’s like, this is it.

00:11:02
This is perfect. They were able to find an amazing group of volunteers who put this event on in. I think they had three weeks warning. It might have been four. So in less than a month, from idea to conception, they put together the very first Cheyenne frontier day, which was September 23 of 1897.

00:11:23
And it was a day for a while, and then it just kept growing and growing, and every element of frontier days speaks to who Cheyenne is. So the parades are this gorgeous, spectacular piece that is out in the community with this wonderful carriage collection. What’s very special about this carriage collection is the vehicles represent this region. There is no other carriage collection in the world whose vehicles are all from the region. It is not the largest in the world, but it is the only one in the world we can say they’ve all been used here.

00:11:57
These are the vehicles that people of Cheyenne and this region had used coming out here, used as commercial and leisure vehicles. There’s also, in Cheyenne, there’s this huge spirit of volunteerism and community. It’s super important here to be involved and to care about what’s going on in your town. It’s just a really special place. Yeah, I think so.

00:12:21
And I think it’s really cool, especially because shine frontier days is so well known, like you said, even internationally. But yet that kind of cracks me up, because a lot of times people don’t even know where Wyoming is. I get that. I hear that. Quite a.

00:12:38
Yeah, yeah. It’s like, okay, but they know about Cheyenne frontier days, or they know about Jackson Hole or Yellowstone. Yellowstone. But where’s Wyoming? Or the place that has all of these cool things that you do know?

00:12:54
Exactly. That’s kind of backwards. But anyway, well, it’s been so fun talking to you. Thank you so much. Morgan.

00:13:02
Thank you so much for the time. I appreciate it.

00:13:09
My name is Korina Ike. I am the director of the Hulett Museum in Hulett, Wyoming. Welcome, Korina. I’m so happy to talk to you today and super excited because I really want to highlight museums around Wyoming, and you’ve been chosen to be one of those highlighted stories. So I want you to tell me the mission of the museum and the kinds of programs that you do.

00:13:33
The mission of the Hulett Museum and Art gallery is to preserve the history and the artifacts related to that history in Hulett and the surrounding areas. We do have little communities that sprung up throughout the creation and settlement of this area, so their items that are close to us in geographical proximity end up here. The programs we do, it varies. And that’s the fun thing about my job. It depends on what people want.

00:14:09
I do try to get feedback from community members and see what. And you never know what’s going to excite people. I’ve had some programs I think are going to be a success, and then we have them, and only a couple people show up. And then others where I have people walking out the door saying, thank you. I wish we had more like this.

00:14:29
The ones we kind of have coming up right now, we’re having a book talk from a Wyoming native, and she works out the coal mine, so that’s kind of cool. And she came in one afternoon and we chatted about her background. And it’s just the different people we have in Wyoming and their skills. You would think I would quit being shocked by it, but I am, and I’m from Wyoming, so I don’t know why. It does shock me.

00:14:55
Another program is Kylie McCormick. She’s a historian out of Casper, and she’s going to come and talk about suffrage in Wyoming. One of the core things we like to do when we have programs is select people who are either from Wyoming or the Black Hills region. We do like to highlight locals and the talents that they can offer. So I hope that wasn’t too long winded or out in the that.

00:15:20
I love that. So what are some of the programs that you have received grants for from Wyoming humanities? I don’t know if they’re programs per se, but a lot of the grants I’ve received thus far for exhibits and there’s some programming that goes along with it in the future. One of the big ones was the grant for our children’s dig pit. We actually borrowed from the Jackson Hole Children’s Museum to construct this.

00:15:49
That’s where the idea originally started, and then Wyoming humanities provided money for the pit. It features geological specimens from across the state of Wyoming. To go with it, I created a and there was a bunch of help. Wyoming Humanities Council, a local sign designer and a friend of mine who is actually an artist all had some input for this, so I’m not going to claim I did it on my own. Typically you don’t on these types of projects, but it’s a map that features all of the geological places throughout Wyoming and it has a picture that goes along with it so people can see the diversity of Wyoming.

00:16:31
I think some people know that when they’re coming to our state, but I think others do also learn, like this state is big and there’s a lot going on in it a variety of ways. That is amazing. And what a great idea. Do you communicate with other museums around the state and talk about each other’s programs and get ideas and have a way to reach out to each other? So there’s actually a Facebook group and I can’t remember, I think there’s a specific name and I just, in my head it’s like the Wyoming, I think it’s Wyoming museum professionals might actually be the official title.

00:17:08
In my head, I’m just like the museum group. We use that to connect and share to. If I’m working on something and I think it’s interesting, I’ll call a museum directly just so I can talk to someone. And I do like to make connections across the state. I think it’s even in this podcast, like you’re what, a friend of a friend, like three people away from someone.

00:17:34
So it’s nice to make these connections because at some point you’re going to run across them again. And like I said earlier, there’s a lot of creativity in the state and a lot of good ideas. So if I can borrow from people or connect with others, I’m going to do that. It makes all of our museums better, and it makes that experience better for people who visit. Well, that’s really true.

00:17:59
One of the things I find most interesting, and I talked to you about it earlier, is how do these small museums really reflect the community character, and how do you curate different pieces or different shows in your museum? So there are two other museums in our county. We’re very lucky and privileged. We have funding, actually, from a museum district that was voted and created by the citizens of the county. And even though each town is about 45 miles from the other, we each have our own distinct personality.

00:18:34
And that’s reflected in our museums. It’s also, I think, reflected in the directors. Like, we each know we have different towns that have different needs, and as directors, we have to meet those needs. I also think part of that, there’s a responsibility to reflect your community, not only in how you see it, but how the people living in that community view it. So I grew up in Hulett.

00:19:01
I’m a local, but my understanding of the history is totally different from someone who grew up here 50 years ago and is still around. And I try to incorporate those different views. There’s also, like, your perspective about your town’s history changes as you grow older, and I want to incorporate that. When I make any exhibit or I bring in different traveling exhibits or new items, it’s not just how I view it. Just because I’m the person running the museum doesn’t mean it’s just my museum.

00:19:37
It belongs to the town and the county as a whole. And I think I’ve been thinking about that a lot, actually, even since you asked, before you asked me the question, like, what role do we serve? I’m the steward of the history, but this history belongs to everyone. That’s a good way to put it. I love that, that you’re the steward of the history, but the history belongs to everyone.

00:19:59
I’m going to quote that. That is a really cool thing to say, because I think sometimes we forget that the museums all over museums and history belong to people. And a lot of people donate. They donate their artwork, their artifacts, they donate to their museums, whatever that is. What are some of your favorite exhibits that you have in your museum?

00:20:24
I like that children’s dig pit. Not just because I made it, but we didn’t really have an interactive exhibit, and then we didn’t have an exhibit that was welcoming to children. I think there’s this idea that museums are places where you’re supposed to be quiet, and it’s just adults and this dig pit allows not only children, but anyone who’s interested in learning about the geology of Wyoming to play and have a good time in a museum. One of the best pieces in our museum is an old blue stove. And it belonged to a local family.

00:21:00
And the guy who donated it was a big proponent of this museum, donated a lot of great items. And to have this cool piece that people come in and they can either. I hear a lot of stories about my grandma had a stove like this, or we have a stove now like this and we’re learning how to cook with it is really cool. You get to see that connection with history through other people. And just because it’s a local item, I can feel the history and connection to it.

00:21:28
But to have others relate to it, something special. Oh, absolutely. And I love that you broke that apart, that museums are for everybody. Every age should be able to go into museum and experience it and experience history and have a connection there and not just walk through really quietly and don’t touch anything and don’t have any fun. Here.

00:21:53
I’ve had people go through whispering. I’m like, you can be. I know. Like the acoustics in this first part are a little loud, but I was like, you don’t have to whisper. Feel free to talk and even get a little loud if you want to.

00:22:06
So I love this dig pit because I want you to send me some pictures of it because that’ll be really fun to add to your podcast, especially when we do some social media. Here’s something that is so interactive for any age and bring your kids and come and experience and explore what Wyoming is all about. You said you were from Wyoming. Where did you grow up? I grew up here in Hulett, actually.

00:22:35
Where did you go to school? I went to the University of Wyoming. Well, we have a k through twelve. I get that question all the time. Like, where’d you go to school?

00:22:43
And I say it’s small. When I graduated with a class of eight and I think in total there’s like 100 kids, so it’s not large by any means. I also get the shock when, oh, you went to school, like higher education. I did. I got my bachelor’s and master’s from the University of Wyoming.

00:23:03
And do they have a museum program there that, was that your focus or what was your focus at? So I got my bachelor’s in anthropology and they had, I don’t think it was a minor, it was a cultural resource management. And I thought when I was getting this degree, I was going to actually go out in the field and dig and do that type of stuff. Realized it wasn’t for me. I kind of dinked around me for a year of thinking, like, what am I going to do?

00:23:34
And I knew I needed a master’s to do anything in a field related to what I’d gone into. So I enrolled in the history program, got into it, and they used to have a public history program, and I think they’re working on bringing it back. When I went did not exist. It was more of a theory heavy course. And this is not to trash on the program.

00:23:59
It’s just when I got into this line of work, everything I learned in the classroom was not applicable. It was more hands on. You just learned as you went and it’s still happening, which is fantastic. I get to learn new things every day, but yeah. When you took a job as an executive director of a museum, were you surprised at what you had to know or what you didn’t know when you first started your job and you feel like how far you’ve come in that time?

00:24:32
Yeah. Oh, for sure. Believe it or not, I don’t think I know everything. I know people my age and young kid, like younger get the oh, you’re young and ten foot tall and bulletproof. I do lean towards that a little bit, but I don’t know everything.

00:24:45
And I’ll admit that freely. Like I said, there are two other museum directors in this county. I speak with one regularly, and we talked about if we could go back or if we could get more education. We would do something with business and marketing, because a lot of this job is not messing around with artifacts and setting up exhibits, which is fun, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy that.

00:25:09
But it’s more administrative, working with different entities in your community, networking, raising money for things you need. So events or programs or advertising for that matter. So it’s more typical. Running a nonprofit is what I would imagine. It’s my first big girl job, I guess so.

00:25:31
I’ve learned a lot in that regards, too. Oh, I bet. And you’re right. I mean, the task of getting people to walk through those doors is huge. It’s one thing to have a museum, but if no one knows about it, it’s like, who cares, right?

00:25:47
Yeah. And I don’t think some people realize how museums function. You show up to a museum and things are set up and you kind of think that’s it. But there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes, and this isn’t to dunk on anyone. I asked one of my friends to be on the board, and she said, I didn’t even know that was a thing.

00:26:09
So I think that’s part not an issue, per se, but just people don’t know what they don’t know. And you say that to people, it’s a small town, and you kind of get the grimace, and you go, yes, there’s pros and cons of living in a small town or a state that doesn’t have a big population. But there’s also a sense of community. And if you’re from Wyoming or if you’re one who moved here, you understand what it means to live in Wyoming. Like, if you hang around long enough, you pick up on that.

00:26:39
And I think there’s a connection between people just living in the state. You get it. Even though we live in different areas and we have different perspectives, the place allows us to connect in ways. Know your typical human of. Because you said there’s three museums.

00:26:59
What part of the Hulett community character do you represent? And you said they all kind of serve differently. Each museum has its own unique style. What makes yours unique in and of itself? That’s a fantastic question.

00:27:17
It makes me think of two things. The first is, so the history is a little different. Morecroft is the other town, and the museum is the West Texas Trail Museum. And it’s right there in the name. They were built around the trailing of cattle from Texas up to this part of the know.

00:27:36
I don’t really know what their history is. It’s not like they were mining community. There are county seats. So that’s kind of like the focus is there, and they’ve had a bigger population. I think our Hulett’s unique because of our history.

00:27:52
So it’s a logging in a ranching community. And that’s actually an exhibit I’m trying to beef up is the logging one, because it has played an important role in our community. And just like everyday life, actually, the second thing is our location. So we’re right there on the cusp of the Black Hills. Devil’s tower is 9 miles west of us.

00:28:15
So that brings in a lot of people the role that we serve in the community. And I think that’s also being close to Devil’s tower. That plays a role, too. Like, we’re a gateway to that attraction. Of course, you have to go to South Dakota and Mount Rushmore and all those little areas.

00:28:30
But once you get to Wyoming, you have to go through our little town. And for the locals, I think it’s having pride in our history. And I think the other museums maybe struggle with this a little bit, too. And I don’t know if it’s a struggle, actually, but I’ve talked to a lot of older locals who don’t think their history is anything important. And, oh, I have nothing to say.

00:28:53
And they tell these stories and typically, I mean, it wasn’t all hardship, but a lot of it. People lived rough lives and they don’t think their history is important. And I think that’s the role of our museum specifically and probably across Wyoming, that highlighting these histories and letting both locals and people come through know that they are important. Just because you aren’t the president of the United States or not someone important in the state doesn’t mean your history isn’t important. It built this state, it built this community, and it’s a legacy for the rest of the people who come after us.

00:29:30
That is so great. So there were two things you said. One was logging. And is it ranching? Yes.

00:29:37
Okay, so it’s logging and ranching are like the two main industries or around Hulett. There’s a couple of things that have really kickstarted this. When I first interviewed for the job, I said I’d work on this exhibit, and that was two years ago, and I’m still working on it. Cataloging, accessioning, whatever you want to say. Some newspapers last year, and I came across this, they used to have loggers versus rancher’s days.

00:30:04
And I think it was a weekend event in the spring, and that’s exactly what it was. They would do different competitions, like splitting wood, which probably more of a logging thing. And then I think maybe roping, and they’d have these competitions between the two groups, which is funny to me because a lot of these people do both. They knew how to log and they probably did a little cowboying when they were growing up. So it’s just interesting that the two identities could be separated.

00:30:34
And anyways, when I started working on it more hardcore this year, I asked one of the people who was going to be giving me information, I said, can you give me a shortened version? I know we could do a whole museum on the logging industry in this area, but we have this set amount of space and we have to make it work. As much as I’d like to dig in, and I’m sure as the exhibit goes on, there will be more components. But there’s a lot of history in this area. And it’s not just in Hulett, it’s related to other communities across the region, which is cool.

00:31:07
And it shows that county lines and state lines don’t mean anything. Oh, I like that. Wow. That is a cool way to think about it. Thank you for your time so much, Korina.

00:31:18
It’s been so great talking to you.

00:31:25
The Meeteetse museums or the Meeteetse Museum district. We’re a special museum district. And so under that umbrella term, we have the Charles Beldon Museum of Western Photography, the Meeteetse Museum, and then the First National Bank museum. And what is the mission of the Meeteetse museums? So we’re all about sharing the history and culture and artistic heritage and natural history of the area, both Meeteetse and a little bit of the surrounding area.

00:31:55
So our kind of collecting mission goes basically about halfway to Cody, halfway to Thermopolis, up into the national forest, so that we can cover Korina and the double D guest ranch. How long has the Meeteetse museums, has it always been this collective of museums, or did they, over time, come together? They, over time, came together. It started out as the Meeteetse Museum, and it was up in the old masonic lodge that now has an antique store. And then they also were donated, the first national bank museum.

00:32:27
And so they had those two sites, and then in the Charles Belden Museum started in its present site, and they had the rest of the building. And so then we were originally part of the Park county museums, and I don’t fully understand, but there were some issues there, I guess. And so then they joined with the Belden Museum and moved down to our present location, and they created the Meeteetse Museum district so that we have a mill levee and we’re separate from the Park county museums. So when you received a grant from Wyoming humanities, and I know over the years you’ve received several, but tell me about this latest grant that you received. So that would be the Crossroads grant.

00:33:06
Correct. So we used that for last year’s summer programming. We called it perspectives on the past. And it was extra programs for the summer, and then a big oral history project and a little booklet. So we had different guest speakers come in.

00:33:23
We had, from the Wind River reservation, a storyteller, Willie LeClair. There we go. We had him come up and do a talk for us. We had a stone tool napping workshop and presentation. We had a genealogy workshop.

00:33:38
That was an all day thing. And then, of course, the oral history project that Emy Phillips, our previous director of education and programming, did a lot of. She interviewed a lot of the. Maybe not old timers exactly. Of Meeteetse, but definitely a lot of that are the ranchers.

00:33:54
And she did some ranch history. And we had a remote intern who went through and double checked that our transcription software matched what they said and helped with the booklet and different things. And we partnered with Dr. Amy McKinney from Northwest College in Powell. And so she helped kind of do a final overview project of the ranches in the area and contributed to our ranch history booklet.

00:34:20
What do you think is the impact of doing oral history projects, not history projects. I think it’s a different perspective on the past, and it’s something that’s very interesting and important to kind of preserve, because these people won’t always be around, and the world has changed so much and is changing, and to have those memories and those recollections, it’s really helpful for us in our research and in figuring out different histories. And then it’s also an important thing that it’s cool to be able to hear the stories and directly from the source, from their voice. So it’s just very important to be able to listen to the past, I guess. Well, the other thing I wanted to ask you about was the genealogy workshop.

00:35:10
What did that entail? I’m always interested in genealogy, so that’s why that just really caught my eye when I was reading about the whole crossover grant. I also thought the other thing that was interesting is that you gathered these 21 interviews, and how do people listen to those interviews, or are they available in the museum? How do you disseminate them? Amy was really good, and she put together different videos on the ranches and incorporated a lot of the oral histories.

00:35:41
And then we have the recordings in the museum that unless someone has opted to kind of hold them back for a few years, they would be available for the public to come listen. But on our YouTube channel, we have the videos of a lot of these oral histories kind of incorporated into a big narrative history because several we interviewed, or Amy interviewed several different members of the families of the different ranches. And so instead of having, like, this is the oral history for so and so, we have, this is the history of this ranch. It’s like the Webster Ranch. Amy interviewed probably four to five members of the Webster family.

00:36:21
And so they’re all kind of incorporated in the larger Western ranch history. Oh, I think that’s excellent. Well, tell me about you. Tell me about your role at the museum and what your background is. So I have a history major and an anthropology minor from the University of northern Colorado, and then a master’s in public history from Arizona State University.

00:36:46
I started at the Meeteetse museums in late 2016 as the collections manager, and then at some point, my title changed to director of collections. But it’s really just the same position. It’s a lot about caring for the collections, about helping to approve or disapprove. I guess what we think should be in the collection. We don’t have room for everything, so we have to be kind of choosy about what we can take and does everything in our collection or in the building currently meet our mission.

00:37:17
So that’s a lot of my job is doing that and taking care of the objects, helping with exhibits, helping with programs. And then over the past couple of years, I’ve also added interim director. So a lot of the day to day stuff. So tell me, in the collections, because that seems to be your area of expertise. I’m just curious, is it artifacts?

00:37:42
Is it art? What makes up the collection? A little bit of everything. We have historic photographs and more current photographs. We have some archival material, some copies of different things, and kind of vertical files, which are more reference files rather than a true archive.

00:37:59
We obviously have a lot of natural history taxidermy specimens. We are the home of the blackfooted ferret, and then we do have some art collections. We do have some history artifacts and collections, textiles, historic clothing tools, horse harnesses and saddles, and kind of feels like, you name it, we probably have it. Yeah, it is. I’ve been there, and I think it’s such an interesting museum, and there is so much to see there.

00:38:30
I’m just always thinking what things make the cut off. When people bring things to you, of course they want them to be preserved in time, but like you said, you can’t take everything. So how do you kind of make those decisions? A lot of it has to do with where the object was used or who used it or who owned it. In order for it to become part of a permanent collection, it needs to be from Meeteetse or somebody who used to live in Meeteetse or whose ancestors were from Meeteetse, and this is something that they got either when they left Meeteetse or when they were in Meeteetse.

00:39:08
We do take some things for our education and property collection, which is stuff that we can use in demonstrations or that can be touched. And so those things, they’re for exhibits, too, but those things are things that don’t have to be from Meeteetse, that we can use them a little bit more. Or maybe it’s something that we don’t have in the collection and it doesn’t have that Meeteetse connection, but it’s what would have been in Meeteetse. We recently got an old mail sorter, and it’s actually, I think, from Crowley, but because the Meeteetse one was destroyed. So we put that in our education collection because the post office official assured us that it was what Meeteetse would have used.

00:39:51
And the Meeteetse postmistress told us that, yeah, we used to use this. So it’s a lot of that. And then it’s kind of what do we already have in the collection? That you might have this cool image, but if we already have, or this cool newspaper clipping, but if we already have five of those, unless it’s in absolutely stellar condition, better than what we have, we can’t take it. Wow.

00:40:14
So you do have to be pretty picky about what. And do you also store things? How do you preserve things? It depends on the artifact. There are different conditions or different ideal conditions for different artifacts.

00:40:30
But, of course, as a small museum, we don’t always have that. So we just do the best we can. We try to keep kind of stable temperature, stable relative humidity. We try not to let anything get too hot or too cold, although usually it’s a little better for things to get a little colder than for things to get too hot. Film and all that kind of stuff.

00:40:51
It’s fine to be a little cooler. So we just kind of have to make sure that things are cared for. We try to make sure there’s not too much dust. So we try to house things in archival boxes, archival tissue, things like that to kind of help protect or different sleeves and things like that, to kind of help protect handling. And we wear gloves, things like that.

00:41:15
So earlier you said that Meeteetse is the home of the black footed ferret. And why is that? The black footed ferret was thought to be extinct in the 1970s, and then one was rediscovered on a ranch outside Meeteetse in 1981. On the Hog ranch, actually. And I think we have an oral history about that.

00:41:38
And so there’s more on that. So people came to study them and to verify that, yeah, this is a Black Footed ferret. And then, of course, they ended up doing the captive breeding program that has been very successful. And so you can’t really talk about the ferret without Meeteetse. How many people go through your museum every year?

00:41:58
It’s usually several hundred, five to 800, probably some years. It’s better than others. Obviously, Covid had an impact. What is the population right now in Meeteetse? I think it’s still right around 300.

00:42:10
And does that include all the small ranch or the large ranches actually around Meeteetse? I don’t think so. I think that’s just kind of the town population that’s on the sign. So it would be probably several hundred kind of on the outlying branches. Okay, well, is there anything else you would like people to know about Meeteetse?

00:42:34
Museums. We’re happy to have visitors. And it’s Meeteetse. Oh, my goodness. Lots of ease, lots of e’s.

00:42:46
Meeteetse. And what are the surrounding towns around Meeteetse? What is the closest next town? Probably Cody. Burlington is also fairly close, going the other way.

00:43:01
Worland and Thermopolis. Well, Wyoming is made up of all these great small towns, isn’t it? Yes. It’s amazing to me. It’s been great talking to you.

00:43:12
Thank you so much for your time.

00:43:19
Thank you for listening. I’m executive producer Emy DiGrappa. Winds of change is brought to you by Wyoming humanities, our co-hosts and all the people who generously share their stories and their time. For more information, go to thinkwy.org subscribe and never miss a show.